George Méliès

film 32 of 70

The Oracle of Delphi

Film Review by Dean Duncan Jun 19, 2015

Very simple, very nice. There are tricks here, some transformations. That’s just what Méliès does. But in addition to that happy status quo, it may be that he is actually playing this subject straight.

In his last years Roberto Rossellini undertook a series of films that sought to expose audiences to, teach audiences about the formative and still current profundities of Western thought and life. D.W. Griffith’s sources—theatrical, literary, poetic, historical—were extraordinarily broad. Méliès had different motives, but as you make your way through these many surviving films, you start to realize the vast cultural repositories that he also was drawing upon. He’s no scholar, and his adaptations can be free to the point of seeming recklessness. Still, how challenging, how bracing. How impressive!

We’ve discussed how early filmmakers could be quite sketchy, quite partial in the way that they adapted their sources. We’ve discussed how this is an indication of film’s then insufficiencies. We should also remember, admire, and be humbled by the accompanying fact that audiences of that time often had a really extensive awareness of all sorts of historical and cultural matters. Today is better. Today is not.